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12-December

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Suggested Preaching Program for

December

•   Sunday Mornings

“The Coming of Christ” is the theme for the first three morning Services. The last Sunday morning makes a suggestion concerning necessary preparation for facing the New Year.

•   Sunday Evenings

“Perils to Avoid” is the theme for the Sunday evening Services.

•   Wednesday Evenings

Continue the messages based on our Lord’s invitation “Follow me.”

Wednesday Evening, December 2

Title: Follow Me to the Valley to Serve

Text: “He saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19).

Scripture Reading: Luke 9:37 – 42

Introduction

Preceding this incident at the foot of the mountain, the three apostles had experienced a unique revelation of the deity of Jesus. For a short time, the glory of God shone forth through the veil of human flesh. In attempting to describe this experience, John recorded, “and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

This was both a terrifying and an awe-inspiring experience that brought a strange delight to the heart to the extent that Peter suggested, “Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Luke 9:33). Peter, and perhaps the other two apostles also, had a desire to continue this heavenly experience and converse.

Many of us can sympathize with Peter, for we have had moments of high inspiration and spiritual ecstasy that we have wished to prolong indefinitely. Perhaps it was during a time of evangelistic Services or at a youth camp. Some have been rather distressed because of the inability to perpetuate this high state of spiritual awareness and joy. While it is normal for us to desire such a state, it is both interesting and profitable to note that if we truly follow Jesus, he will also lead us down from the top of the mountain into the valley where human need and human suffering are so prevalent.

Jesus the Savior would have us know that the inward satisfaction and delight that come as a result of communion with God is not to be considered as an end in itself. These moments of communion and conversation with God in prayer are to equip us to go out where human need cries out (Luke 9:38 – 39).

I. Jesus came to serve: “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Jesus had defined his mission in terms of ministering to the needs of others. In his daily activities, he went about this task of ministering to the needs of others with a sense of urgency. He said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). He ministered throughout the day and even until after nightfall. The needy and the suffering continued to come to have their needs met by Jesus. He gave himself unreservedly in Service to others. It has been suggested that the best biography of the Savior ever written is found in Acts 10:38, where he is described as one “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil.”

II. Christ would lead us to serve.

Human nature has not changed. People still desire to be great. They hunger for status and position and recognition. The apostles were guilty of desiring positions of prestige and prominence. In recognition of this desire, Jesus said to the Twelve, “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all.” On the night before he was to be crucified, he demonstrated dramatically his desire that his disciples follow him in unselfish Service. He assumed the role of a servant and washed the feet of his disciples. Then he said, “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you. The servant is not greater than his Lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:15 – 16).

      A. We can follow the example of Jesus in ministering to the sick (Mark 1:34).

      B. We can follow the example of Jesus in feeding the hungry (John 6:813; cf. James 2:1417).

      C. We can follow the example of Jesus in a ministry to the sorrowing (Mark 5:3643).

III. Created unto good works.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

By inspiration the apostle declared unto the Ephesian Christians that they had been created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of performing or producing good works. People who have been born of the Spirit of God have a greater capacity for compassion. With the coming of the Holy Spirit into the heart, there is a desire not only to share the good news of God’s grace, but also a desire to be of help to others.

      A. Jesus loved people. As Christians it is possible for us to love even the unlovable. We need to let God’s love fill our hearts and flow through us in ministries of mercy to those in need.

      B. Love seeks to express itself. Christian love within the heart must demonstrate itself or dwindle and die.

Conclusion

To be a true follower of Jesus Christ is to invest time and talents and treasure and testimony in deeds of Service to others.

Sunday Morning, December 6

Title: The Uniqueness of the Christian Religion

Text: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

Scripture Reading: John 14:1 – 12

Hymns:  “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” Bridges

              “Jesus Is All the World to Me,” Thompson

              “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” Crosby

Offertory Prayer: Today, holy Father, we bring the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of our tithes and offerings and present them to him who was born to be our King. We ask your blessings on these contributions to the end that all people everywhere might hear the message of your grace and the gospel of your dear Son, Jesus Christ. Help us to give after the pattern by which our Savior gave himself for us. Amen.

Introduction

Some people look upon Christianity as an uninteresting negativism, and others look upon it as nothing more than pious, ethical behavior. Some others equate a vague belief in God in combination with a mild humanitarian benevolence as Christianity. Yet others consider any religious emotionalism as a demonstration of genuine Christianity. It should be recognized that these shallow, superficial concepts are not synonymous with the faith that first awakened the world like a thousand trumpet blasts.

Genuine Christianity was and is a dynamic force of immeasurable power for good because of the living presence and power of Jesus Christ. Christianity is more than a creed; it is Christ living, working, and ministering in and through those who have committed themselves to him as Lord as well as Savior.

As we approach the Christmas season, it can be very profitable for us to recognize that genuine Christianity is unique because of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

I. In Jesus Christ we have an adequate and accurate revelation of the nature, character, and purpose of God.

      A. Jesus Christ came into the world that he might reveal God. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).

      B. Jesus claimed to be an accurate revelation of God. “Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” (John 14:9; cf. John 14:2, 6 – 7, 9 – 12).

      An agnostic professor of comparative religion approached a convert from Hinduism to Christianity with the question, “Which of the teachings of Christ changed you?” The new convert to Christianity replied, “None. It was Christ who changed me.” Humans are religious creatures. Because of the God-shaped vacuum in our hearts, we are always seeking. We find the fulfillment of our deepest needs when we discover Jesus Christ.

II. In Jesus Christ we have dramatic demonstration of the divine estimate of humans.

      A. Humans are the crown of God’s creativity.

      B. Humans are of supreme value to God.

      C. Humans have fallen short of the divine design.

      D. Humans are the objects of divine redemptive activity.

      E. Humans were made for fellowship with God.

III. In Jesus Christ we have the highest moral ideal ever conceived.

      A. Some consider the Sermon on the Mount impractical.

      B. The Sermon on the Mount assumes regeneration.

          1. Repentance.

          2. Faith.

      C. The Sermon on the Mount is based on ethical absolutes, for God is personal.

IV. In Jesus Christ we discover a divine dynamic for moral and spiritual progress.

      A. Jesus Christ personifies the highest possible manhood. He demonstrates the ideal both in his attitudes and in his actions.

      B. By Jesus’ divine power, he enables us to become that which would have been impossible by human strength alone (Phil. 4:13).

V. The distinguishing characteristic of a Christian is the practice of love.

      A. Jesus commanded his disciples to live by the principle of love (John 13:3435).

      B. The love of which Jesus speaks is to be defined in terms of a persistent, unbreakable spirit of goodwill (John 4:19; Rom. 5:51).

Conclusion

Christianity is a living, vital relationship to a divine person, and that person is Jesus Christ. Christianity is the only religion that involves an intrinsic relationship between its founder and his followers. Jesus Christ is a living Savior, and Christianity is a fellowship with him, rather than a mere creed concerning him or a code of conduct announced by him.

Sunday Evening, December 6

Title: The Danger of Drifting

Text: “Therefore we ought to give the most earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Heb. 2:1).

Scripture Reading: Genesis 13:7 – 13

Introduction

What is the greatest danger we face today? Some people fear a biological or chemical terrorist attack. Many dread cancer or some other disease. Some fear a fatal plane or automobile accident. These are things that can destroy the body. What we should be more concerned about is endangering our souls by drifting away from the path of spiritual progress. The words of our text warn us strongly about the danger of drifting.

I. The warning is for all of us.

      A. A pastor can drift, and some have.

      B. A deacon can drift, and some have.

      C. A Sunday school teacher can drift, and some have.

      D. A husband and wife can drift apart, and some have.

      E. Young people can drift along through life, and some have.

      F. A church can drift along in comfortable complacency without a compassion that compels it to engage in a crusade of concerned witnessing to the unsaved in the community. Some have.

      G. A nation can drift away from the moral foundations and values that have made it great. Ours has.

II. It is easy to drift.

An unknown poet wrote a poem called “A Real Man.” A mother copied it and hung it on her son’s bedroom wall. It warns against the peril of drifting.

It is easy to drift with the current swift

  Just lie in your boat and dream.

But in nature’s plan, it takes a real man

  To paddle the boat upstream.

      A. We have a natural tendency to follow the path of ease.

      B. On all sides we are encouraged to avoid the difficult.

      C. We like to follow the path that is natural and normal.

      D. Most of us like to follow the crowd, and we are pressured by the crowd. We fail to recognize that the crowd is usually wrong on most of the vital issues that affect life.

      E. We have a natural tendency to look for the least expensive, easiest, most convenient way to do that which is important. We fail to realize that there are no shortcuts to success.

      The world, the flesh, and the Devil continue to lead us astray. They would continue to encourage us to drift. Any dead fish can drift downstream, as the poem says.

III. Why do we drift?

One could answer this question by saying, “The world, the flesh, and the Devil” and be correct. Let’s consider it from a more practical standpoint.

      A. A built-in tendency to sin. Even the born-again Christian sometimes has a tendency to do that which is contrary to the will of God (Gal. 5:17). Satan continues to tempt us through promises of profit or pleasure, so we need to recognize that we can be duped by him. Unless we take steps to prevent our falling into sin, it is certain we will do so.

      A fear of falling into sin that could nullify our Christian witness and disqualify us as the spokespeople of our Lord is wholesome and necessary if we are to achieve success as the servants of God (1 Cor. 9:25 – 27).

      B. Ignoring the presence and the work of the Holy Spirit. Many who have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are uninformed that God has bestowed within them the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:6). In the conversion experience, the Holy Spirit enters the heart of the believer to reproduce in his mind and character the mind and character of Jesus Christ: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

      The Holy Spirit cannot do his greatest work when his presence is ignored and there is no cooperation on the part of the believer. Not to respond eagerly and continuously to the inward promptings of the Spirit is to follow a course of drifting away from God’s will and way.

      C. Neglecting the means of growth. Some have failed to recognize that the conversion experience produces a spiritual infant rather than one who is spiritually mature. To neglect the means of spiritual growth can be detrimental to the spiritual well-being of the new convert.

          1. A devotional study of the Word of God is the milk and the meat by which the child of God is to grow (1 Cor. 3:1 – 3; 1 Peter 2:2).

          2. Communion with God through prayer is as necessary for the health of the soul as sunlight is for the health of the body.

          3. Fellowship with God’s people in the church is as necessary for the growth of the soul as is the love of a family for the development of a child (Heb. 10:24 – 25).

      D. Clinging to some known and secret sin. Only a fool will treat sin lightly (Prov. 14:9), for sin will destroy a person. Sin is to the soul what infection is to the body. For a believer to tolerate known sin in his life is to encourage spiritual bad health. Unless there is a forsaking of this sin, whether it be in the realm of omission, commission, or disposition, the sinner is sure to drift.

      Why do you drift? Are you letting the poor example of some older brother or sister in Christ cause you to drift away from the Lord who gave his life for you on the cross?

      Have you let some trouble or sorrow or disappointment cause you to drift away from the Christ who said, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”? One can sympathize with the young widow and mother who felt bitter because of the sudden death of her husband, but for her to quit praying and to quit trusting God is as irrational as it would be for a desert traveler to throw away his water jug.

      Is it possible that you have drifted along in mediocrity because no one has created within you a burning desire to be an extraordinary Christian? The absence of desire to be something above the ordinary will encourage goalless drifting. [Repeat poem.]

IV. It is time to quit drifting.

      A. Drifting is dangerous. It is dangerous for the Christian, for a lost world waits to hear the message of salvation, and those who are drifting along will not communicate that message.

      B. Drifting is deadly. Some fishermen were “drift” fishing below a dam in Kentucky several years ago. While concentrating on catching fish, they failed to recognize that the currents were pulling them into a place of great danger. An official of the dam sounded a warning with a horn. The men in the boat began frantically attempting to get their motor started, but the motor died, and those above the current saw an overloaded boat containing five persons go down. All perished. Drifting in the spiritual realm can be even more deadly. The unsaved can drift over the precipice of death into eternity unprepared to meet God.

      C. The crucified and risen Christ would confront us in the midst of our drifting and challenge us to cease our aimless and meaningless way of life. By his death on the cross and by the challenge of an exciting partnership, he calls each of us to the upward life.

Conclusion

If you are a drifting disciple, you would be exceedingly wise to rededicate your life and to begin again doing the things that not only please the Savior but that bring delight to soul. If you are among the great host drifting along and delaying the decision to come to Jesus Christ, then you should be warned today that drifting is both dangerous and deadly. Today as you have heard the good news of God’s love for you, you have had the opportunity to respond to that love with the confidence of your heart and with the cooperation of your will. Make that decision now.

Wednesday Evening, December 9

Title: Follow Me into the World to Witness

Text: “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).

Introduction

The angel described the mission of the Christ child to Joseph in terms of his being the Savior: “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). John the Baptist directed the attention of his followers to Jesus by saying, “Behold the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus said many things concerning his mission from God to humans. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17). “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Tonight we will focus our attention on our text, John 18:37, which describes Jesus’ mission in terms of bearing a witness to the truth. The word “witness” in this verse is to be thought of, not in terms of an eyewitness who sees, but as a speaker who verifies with his testimony that which he knows to be the truth.

I. Jesus was a witness.

“What he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:32 – 33).

      A. Jesus was a witness concerning the nature and character of God. Because he was God and because he came from God to humans, Jesus had firsthand knowledge concerning the nature and character of God. His life and ministry were efforts to reveal God. By precept and parable he sought to communicate truths about God.

      By the life that he lived and by the death that he suffered and by the triumph that he experienced over the tomb, Jesus bore witness concerning God.

      B. Jesus was a witness to people.

          1. Jesus gave a testimony about God to the woman at the well (John 4).

          2. Jesus gave a testimony about God to a tax collector (Luke 19:1 – 10).

          3. Jesus gave a testimony about God to publicans and sinners (Luke 15:1).

          4. Jesus gave a testimony about God to the proud Pharisees and scribes (Luke 15:2 – 32).

          5. Jesus gave a testimony concerning the declaration of God’s love for sinners by suffering on the cross.

II. You are witnesses.

Following the victorious conquest over death, Jesus taught his disciples many things that he had been unable to teach them before his crucifixion. He helped them to understand that his death on the cross had been a demonstration of God’s great love for sinners rather than some tragic accident that brought to a disappointing end their dreams for a messianic kingdom. He helped them to see that if people would recognize God’s love and respond with faith and repentance, they would receive the remission of sins and the gift of new life.

The climax of this instruction was Jesus’ commission to them in which he described their continuing function in terms of bearing a testimony concerning God’s great love: “Ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48). He was not merely asserting that they were eyewitnesses to these redemptive events; rather, he was declaring that they were to be audible, articulate, verbal communicators of what God has done to deliver people from the tyranny of sin.

By the very nature of the case, a witness can only relate pertinent facts that he or she has personally experienced or observed. The apostles had a unique testimony because they had seen him with their eyes, they had heard him with their ears, and they had handled him with their hands. We cannot give their personal testimony, for we have not had their experience.

If we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ today, he would lead us to give our own personal testimony or witness concerning both our conversion experience and the goodness of God to us along the road of life. By the giving of our testimony, we become the means by which others are encouraged to have faith. Through the testimony of many witnesses and the work of the Holy Spirit, unbelievers are convinced and respond to the gospel message with faith that saves.

      A. The witness of our life. The life that we live authenticates or makes void the testimony of our lips. If we truly follow Jesus in a life dedicated to God and to the Service of our fellow humans, our influence will verify the testimony of our lips.

      B. The witness of our labor. Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt. 7:20). Others should be able to see the evidence in our conduct of the presence of Christ within our heart. Christ within our heart should encourage us to be humble before God and merciful and kind toward people.

      C. The witness of our lips. It is not enough just to live a good life, as important as that is. The lack of a good reputation can discredit the testimony of a witness. It is not enough to express Christianity in generous deeds of mercy; we must also give a verbal testimony if people are to hear the gospel.

Conclusion

If we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we must recognize and respond to our opportunities to bear a witness concerning him and for him to others.

Sunday Morning, December 13

Title: Christ the Lord

Text: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:6 – 7

Hymns:  “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” Wesley

              “Joy to the World! The Lord Is Come,” Watts

              “Ye Servants of God,” Wesley

Offertory Prayer: Gracious and loving Father, during this time of year we are reminded over and over of the lavishness of your gift to us in your Son, Jesus Christ. Today we bow with the wise men and present to him the gift of our love, the gift of reverent worship, the gift of grateful hearts, and the gift of dedicated lives in his Service. Bless the bringing of these tithes and offerings that his name might be made known to the ends of the earth. Amen.

Introduction

The mysterious wise men came from the East in search of the one whose birth was to usher in a new era. They came saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matt. 2:2). The mention of an unborn babe who was to be a king aroused the jealousy and fear of Herod. The possibility of a rival king stimulated his fear to the extent that he commanded that all male children in the city of Bethlehem below two years of age were to be slain to eliminate this suspected future rival for the throne.

The title “king” in those days had a significance that is almost forgotten in our day. A king exercised authority over a nation of individuals, and according to his wishes, people perished or prospered. Today we give little thought to the title “king,” because there are very few kings who exercise any authority over their subjects.

During this Christmas season it would be profitable if each of us would listen to the angelic announcement of the birth of the Christ and make a positive response to the title of King, or Lord, that was bestowed upon him at the time of his birth. In our sentimental consideration of the babe who was born in Bethlehem to be our Savior, we might miss the title that provides us with a clue to understanding the means by which he is to be the Savior of people.

Few words in our religious vocabulary have suffered a greater loss of original meaning than the word “Lord.” In modern usage this word has been robbed of its original content. We let this title glide across our tongue rather glibly, as if it were nothing more than a given name. In reality it is not a name; it is a title. To use it as a name is to misrepresent its significance.

We need to understand the meaning of “Lord” that we might properly respond to the person whose birth we celebrate at this season of the year. To neglect or to refuse to respond to the implications of this title of the Savior is to deny ourselves of that which he came to accomplish in the lives of people.

The Greek word kurios is a word with a wide variety of meanings, each of which has significance for understanding the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.

I. Kurios“lord”was the normal address of respect in everyday Greek.

The modern term is sir in English; herr in German; monsieur in French; and senor in Spanish.

II. Kurios“lord”was a title of authority.

      A. By this title a distinction was indicated between the master and a slave. In the ancient world, slavery was a universal practice. The population was divided into freemen and slaves. The slave’s owner was a kurios — a master. As such, he could command the energies and efforts of his slaves. He could buy a man as a slave, and he could sell a slave that he owned to someone else. The slave was at the disposal of his kurios — his master.

      B. Jesus used this word to distinguish the slave from his master. “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

      C. This title Kurios — “Lord,” which the angels ascribed to the babe who was born in Bethlehem, indicated that he was one who would have the right to command. Many of us have failed to recognize and respond to this fact.

      The captain of a ship has the right of command. He is the executive officer over all that transpires on the ship. At his command the ship departs from port, and at his command the ship follows a course to his chosen destiny. The captain is lord.

      The commanding officer of a military base is a lord. His authority is respected by both the officers and the enlisted personnel. He has the right of command. The people on the base pattern their lives according to his orders.

      The angels said, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Are we guilty of anarchy and rebellion against him whom God ordained to be our Lord and Master?

III. Kurios“lord”was used to describe absolute possession or ownership.

He who owned a house, a field, an animal, or a slave was a lord. The word that Jesus used in describing the owner of a vineyard is this word kurios (Luke 20:13). This word is also used to describe the owner of the colt upon which Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:33).

In announcing that Jesus Christ is Lord, the angels were actually introducing him to us as the owner of all things.

In John’s gospel we read, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). He came to his own people, and they refused to recognize or respond to him. Israel’s tragic response to him has been repeated over and over through the centuries. When the Lord is rejected and people are left to their own resources, they lose proper perspective.

IV. Kurios“lord”was used to denote one who served as a guardian.

In the ancient world, legal rights were denied to women as individuals. To engage in any business or contract or to hold possession of property, a woman had to have a guardian. This guardian could be the husband, a brother, or possibly a more distant relative. By means of a guardian, the rights of the unfortunate were protected.

There is substance for an entire sermon on the thought of Jesus Christ serving as our Guardian, Savior, and Redeemer. He protects us not only from ourselves but also from satanic forces. He is a guardian who has promised to be with us throughout all of our days in all of our ways.

V. Kurios“lord”was the standard title of the Roman emperors. To be lord implied sovereignty, power, and authority.

      A. By means of this title, the emperor issued orders and decrees. Often when a pastor writes to his people he will affix his signature over his title or office as pastor. When a Roman emperor issued an edict, proclamation, or order, he would sign it with his signature and the title “Kurios.”

      B. This title summed up his authority in the same way that a president serves by virtue of his office and a police officer serves by virtue of his oath and uniform. The emperor exercised his authority in more instances and far more extensively than that of any present ruler.

      The angelic announcement of the Christ child’s birth contained the idea that Christ was to exercise this kind of authority over the souls of people. For us to recognize this may help us to understand why Herod was concerned to the extent that he eliminated the male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem.

VI. In the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, Kurios“Lord”was regularly used as the name of Israel’s God.

In the ascending scale of the various meanings of the word kurios, this is the highest. It is used of him whom the Hebrews considered to be their God. We are not reading too much into the angelic announcement when we declare that they were announcing that the eternal God had chosen to enter the realm of human activity through the womb of a virgin. God had chosen to clothe himself in human flesh and dwell among people to disclose the divine love, mercy, grace, power, and purpose for people.

Conclusion

From your heart are you able to say to Jesus, “You are my Master, and I will be obedient to you as a devoted slave”? Can you honestly say, “You are my Owner, and I will let you occupy every portion and position of my life?” Can you say, “You are my Guardian upon whom I depend for protection and guidance?” Are you willing to say to him, “You are my Emperor, and because you loved me enough to die for me, I want to be faithful to you in living a life dedicated to the growth of your kingdom”?

Can you with Thomas say to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28)? When we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, he becomes our Savior. He brings us an inward assurance of peace and helps us to relate to others in a manner that produces peace among people.

If we are to observe this Christmas in a proper manner, we must yield the sovereignty of our lives to him who alone is Lord.

Sunday Evening, December 13

Title: The Peril of Forgetting God

Text: “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day” (Deut. 8:11).

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 8:1 – 20

Introduction

Most of us are forgetful at times. Sometimes it can be embarrassing or upsetting, but at other times it can be tragic. On one occasion a prospective groom forgot his marriage license. On another occasion a husband forgot that his wife had gone to town with him and discovered her absence only after he had arrived back home. Did you ever hear a parent say to a child, “You would forget your head if it were not connected to your body”?

Moses, the servant of God, warned the people against the peril of forgetting God.

I. The warning against forgetting God.

      A. Moses warned, “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God” (Deut. 8:11).

      B. The Passover feast was inaugurated that the people might be reminded annually of the great deliverance from slavery that God accomplished for Israel (Exod. 12:43).

      C. Jesus instituted baptism and the Lord’s Supper as symbolic ordinances, reminders of the mighty redemptive acts by which we are delivered from the penalty and power of sin.

      The psalmist declared that the heavens are a constant proclaimer of God’s presence and power. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

II. Have you forgotten God?

      A. Some people forget God in the time of peace. When there is peace in the heart, peace in the home, and peace in the country, some are inclined to forget their need for God.

      If peace has prevailed in your life, have you let this provide an occasion for you to forget him who is the source of peace?

      B. Some people forget God in the time of prosperity.

          1. They forget that it is God who gives them the power to get wealth (Deut. 8:18).

          2. They ascribe their success in the material realm to their own personal ability and effort (Deut. 8:17).

          3. As people become successful, they assume an attitude of self-sufficiency. Their preoccupation with material values crowds out thoughts of God.

      C. Some people forget God in the time of adversity. Instead of rushing into the presence of God for help, some rebel and become cynical and deliberately shut God out. They forget his goodness and his promises.

      D. Some people forget God when decisions are made. It is sad that the very source of the streams that are to vitally affect our future are forgotten. We forget to consult God. Many people will consult their relatives, their physician, their banker, and their lawyer but never think to consult God. Many of us go contrary to the suggestion of the wise man (Prov. 3:5). We lean on everything and everyone except God for guidance.

          1. God should not be forgotten in the choice of a career.

          2. God should not be forgotten in the choice of a companion.

          3. God should not be forgotten as we seek to develop character.

III. The fearful results of forgetting God.

      A. People are left to their own limited human resources.

      B. Life becomes a bitter, hopeless struggle.

      C. Life drifts off its true course.

      D. Life falls below its highest potential.

      E. Life becomes confused, and fear and fatalism reign within the heart.

      F. Life is spent in the Service of lesser gods.

Conclusion

God promised Israel that he would never forget them: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isa. 49:15). God reminds us of his presence in a multiplicity of ways. May God give us eyes that see the reminders of his presence, and may he grant us the wisdom to be responsive that we might ever remember his goodness and mercy toward us.

Wednesday Evening, December 16

Title: Follow Me to the Cross to Suffer

Text: “He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Introduction

At the age of twelve, Jesus expressed an awareness of his unique relationship to God and of a divine purpose for his being in the world (Luke 2:49). Shortly before his prayer of committal from the cross, Christ cried out in joyful triumph, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The crucifixion was no accident to meet an emergency in the plan of God. Jesus spoke repeatedly of it following Peter’s great confession (Matt. 16:21). Jesus left Galilee for Jerusalem and the cross against the advice of his disciples (John 11:8).

If we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we must face the fact that a cross is involved. During the days of Jesus, the cross was not a beautiful emblem to be worn on a chain about the neck or on a lapel. It was a thing of cruelty and a symbol of sin.

Because of the love that carried Christ to the cross, this symbol of shame has been transformed into a symbol of glory. The cross, which was a thing of cruelty, is now a symbol of mercy. Instead of being a symbol of fear, it is now a symbol of courage and inspiration.

Thomas Shepherd wrote a beautiful poem in which he asked the question, “Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?” He then answered that question by saying, “No, there is a cross for everyone, and there is a cross for me.”

I. Must Jesus bear the cross alone? Yes.

In a very real sense, Jesus was the only one who could bear the cross. In the hymn “There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” Cecil Alexander has explained why Jesus Christ alone must bear the cross and die on it for us.

There was no other good enough

To pay the price of sin.

He only could unlock the gate

Of heaven and let us in.

Oh, dearly, dearly has He loved,

And we must love Him, too.

And trust in His redeeming blood,

And try His works to do.

Charles H. Gabriel has penned the words:

He took my sins and my sorrows,

He made them His very own;

He bore the burden to Calv’ry,

And suffered, and died alone.

How marvelous! how wonderful!

And my song shall ever be;

How marvelous! how wonderful!

Is my Savior’s love for me!

Why would the sinless, spotless Son of God have to die on the cross? While he was suspended between the heavens and the earth, the wicked rulers derided him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35). The soldiers also mocked him saying, “If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself” (Luke 23:37). And one of the malefactors railed on him saying, “If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.”

      A. Why did Jesus not come down from the cross?

          1. It was not because he was a fake.

          2. It was not for the lack of power.

          3. It was not for the lack of assistance.

      B. Jesus bore the cross alone:

          1. Because of God’s love for a lost world.

          2. Because of the world’s desperate need for a Savior.

          3. Because Jesus was the only one who could save. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

II. Must Jesus bear the cross alone? No.

In Thomas Shepherd’s beautiful hymn the answer comes: “No, there is a cross for everyone, and there is a cross for me.” A multitude of people in this day have confused the burdens of life with the cross of Christ. There is a vast difference between a burden and a cross. A burden is something we have to bear, sometimes out of necessity, sometimes out of choice. Not all burdens are crosses, but every cross is a burden, which is voluntarily taken out of love for God or out of love for others and borne for the glory of God and for the good of humankind.

The cross was an instrument of death. To bear a cross was to die. For the Christian to bear his or her cross is to die to self and selfish interests and ambitions. To follow Jesus in bearing a cross is to do something more than just denying certain things to ourselves. Truly to bear a cross is to deny self. It is to say no to self and yes to the will of God.

      A. To follow Jesus in bearing the cross is to put the will of God before family relationships. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sister, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).

      B. To follow Jesus in bearing the cross is to give the will of God priority over earthly possessions (Luke 14:2833).

      C. To follow Jesus in bearing the cross is to voluntarily assume a burden for the glory of God and for the good of needy people.

Conclusion

Paul wrote to the Philippian Christians, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29 NIV). These are strange words to the ears of the modern believer. Because of our instinctive desire to avoid suffering and to evade hardship, many of us have deprived ourselves of the joy of cross-bearing. It was because of the joy that was set before him that Christ endured his cross. His was to be the joy of making God’s love known, of saving people from sin, and of having the approval of the heavenly Father.

If we do not follow Christ in bearing a cross, we will have no crown at the end of the road.

Sunday Morning, December 20

Title: God’s Greatest Gift

Text: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6).

Hymns:  “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun,” Watts

              “Angels from the Realms of Glory,” Montgomery

              “Glory to His Name,” Hoffman

Offertory Prayer: Our Father and our God, you who are the Author and Giver of every good and precious gift, to you we give thanks for your unspeakable gift to us, Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior. Today we give ourselves and our substance in grateful worship to you. Bless these gifts to the honor and glory of your name. Amen.

Introduction

God’s greatest gift to people is often overlooked at Christmastime. Today we concentrate our attention on that gift foretold by the prophets: God’s only begotten Son (Isa. 9:6).

It is the tragedy of tragedies that so few have properly related themselves to the Christ who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. The wise men came asking, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” (Matt. 2:2). We should be asking: “Who is he?” and “What do you think of the Christ?”

Is Jesus Christ merely a mythical or legendary figure? Is he simply the most notable figure on the pages of history? His birthday gave the world a new era, dividing the past from the future at a focal point. His majesty has given the world its most immortal paintings. His love has inspired the world’s masterpieces of art, sculpture, and music. His influence has inspired earth’s greatest philanthropies. More books have been written about him than have been written about all of the kings who have ruled from earthly thrones.

Who is this Son whom God has given?

I. God has given unto us a supernatural Son.

      A. Jesus was supernaturally conceived and born of the Virgin Mary.

      B. Christianity is built and based on a supernatural Christ. Christianity is more than a creed or code; it is a fellowship with a risen and living Christ. Those who reject the virgin birth and explain away Christ’s miracles and deny his resurrection have only a pale, weak, anemic human Christ who has no power with which to save a sinful race.

II. God has given unto us a sinless Son.

Christ was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

      A. Christ refrained from all willful transgression.

      B. Christ was the very essence of personal purity.

      C. The verdict of Pilate, the Roman governor, was “I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him” (Luke 23:14).

      At Jesus’ baptism, God spoke from heaven, expressing the divine approval of Christ (Matt. 3:17). He made a second expression of approval at the transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). The resurrection of Christ was a public demonstration of the divine acceptance of his substitutionary death on the cross.

III. God has given us a Son who suffered as our substitute.

      A. The prophet Isaiah foretold the substitutionary death of the Suffering Servant of God (Isa. 53:56).

      B. The angel told Joseph that Mary’s unborn child was divine and that he would be the Savior of his people (Matt. 1:21).

      C. When John the Baptist introduced Jesus to his disciples, he called him the one who would bear the sin of the world (John 1:29).

      D. Jesus defined his objective for coming into the world in terms of giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

      E. Jesus described himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life voluntarily for his sheep (John 10:11).

      F. Paul declared that while we were still rebel sinners against God, God loved us and gave his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:6).

      G. The Sinless One, by a divine decree, was made to be sin for us that he might suffer in our place, saving us from the penalty of sin (2 Cor. 5:21).

      H. He who was rich beyond imagination became a pauper that we, through his poverty, might be made indescribably rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

      I.  God’s greatest gift, his sinless Son, suffered for us sinners that he might return us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

IV. God has given us a Son who is an all-sufficient Savior.

      A. He takes care of the past by the pardon of every sin and the forgiveness of every transgression.

      B. He takes care of the present by his abiding presence.

          1. He is the mind of God speaking out to people.

          2. He is the voice of God calling out to people.

          3. He is the heart of God throbbing out to people.

          4. He is the hand of God reaching out to people.

          5. He is the Savior who can meet the deepest needs of the soul.

      C. He takes care of the future by providing a home at the end of the journey.

Conclusion

Have you received the royal Guest into your heart? It is time to let him in. Do not ignore him or shut him out. Accept God’s greatest gift by receiving his Son as the Lord of your heart and life.

Sunday Evening, December 20

Title: The Peril of Shutting Out Jesus

Text: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manager; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Scripture Reading: John 1:11 – 12

Introduction

Some have been critical of the innkeeper in Bethlehem because he turned away the holy family, and they were compelled to find shelter in a stable. Some have been sympathetic toward the innkeeper because he was deprived of the privilege of providing a place for the birth of the Christ child because all of the space available had already been occupied when Joseph and Mary arrived. Many sermons have been preached on the text, “There was no room for them in the inn.”

Have you ever considered the possibility that we are guiltier of shutting out the Christ than was the innkeeper in Bethlehem?

John’s gospel declares that Christ came to his own, and his own received him not (John 1:11). The Jewish nation rejected him as the Messiah, and in so doing they excluded themselves from the great redemptive activity of God in the world. Thus the church became the chosen instrument by which God would make his ways known to the world.

The last written message of the living Christ to his churches is found in Revelation 2 – 3. These seven letters are concluded with a rather pathetic picture of the Christ on the outside standing at the door knocking and requesting entrance.

Have you shut Christ out of your life? Have you shut Christ out of your church? Many of us do so without realizing it.

I. Have you shut Jesus out by a lack of faith in his promises?

Jesus promised his disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). He also declared, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). When you come to the house of God for prayer, praise, and proclamation, do you come expecting to experience and to respond to the living Christ? If you do not come expecting him, most likely you will miss him. By your preoccupation with your own affairs, you will miss an experience with him who conquered death and the grave.

II. Have you shut out Jesus by cultivating a critical spirit toward others?

Fellowship with Christian friends is invaluable. Many people declare that they prefer to worship in a small church where it is possible to know and be known by all who are present. This is a legitimate desire, but if our primary emphasis is on knowing people, we may miss the presence of God. While knowing everyone present can cause us to feel comfortable, if we permit a critical spirit toward the frailties and shortcomings of others to capture our minds, our worship experience will be short-circuited. The moment we begin to exercise a critical attitude, we cease to worship and we isolate ourselves from the Christ who wishes to commune with us.

III. Have you shut Jesus out by irreverence?

Concentration of the mind and heart on God and his will for our lives is essential for worship. It is impossible for us to chat with others and at the same time hear what the living Lord would say to our hearts. Worship, while it might take place in the midst of a huge congregation, is a very personal and private thing. Only as we have a reverent, trusting, responsive heart can we enter the throne room of God or can we let the Christ come into our hearts in all of his fullness.

Conclusion

During this Christmas season each of us should be very certain that we have allowed the Christ to occupy the place that rightfully belongs to him in our lives. We need to avoid the possibility of following in the footsteps of the innkeeper.

Wednesday Evening, December 23

Title: Follow Me: An Invitation to High Adventure

Scripture Reading: Matthew 4:18 – 22

Introduction

All of us are seeking adventure and excitement in some way or another. Many hear the call of the sea and interpret this as a command, and consequently they sail the high seas from one country to another. Others have heard the call of the wild and have spent their lives on the frontiers of human activity and progress.

Some have heard the call of the field and have spent their lives out in the open among living things. Others have heard the call of gold and find themselves chasing dollars. From time to time, some of us hear the call of the water, and we find ourselves sitting on the bank of a stream or in a boat on a lake.

If we would want the deepest satisfaction that the heart can experience, with the ear of the soul we need to hear the call of God and respond with faith and faithfulness to his love and grace for our lives. The greatest pleasure and the highest sense of self-satisfaction that one can know is to have the assurance that he knows the eternal God and that he is living his life in cooperation with God’s purpose.

I. The promise of this invitation.

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). This invitation from our Lord is a command. Jesus was saying to these men, “I will take your techniques and your methods, and I will give you the thrill of bringing into a person’s life the greatest possible joy that can come to him.”

      A. The call of the sea promises excitement.

      B. The call of the wild promises game.

      C. The call of the field promises fruit.

      D. The call of the water promises fish.

      E. The call of gold promises profit. Usually there are those among us who have responded to the call of gold with all of their minds, hearts, souls, and energy. Some of us have reaped a part of the promise of plenty, but some of us have not. A false god always promises plenty, but it never completely satisfies. It always disappoints.

      F. The call of the Lord promises souls for our rewards. The joy and delight of helping someone experience the love, mercy, and grace of God are excelled by no other thrill and excitement. Jesus said, “If you will come and follow me, I will take you with your experience, skills, and talents and teach you and train you to become the means by which others will be saved.” There is no greater Service you can render an individual than to lead him to Jesus Christ as Savior.

II. The invitation explained and applied.

Jesus is extending an invitation for people to invest their lives in that which is of present and eternal significance. Being a genuine Christian means more than attending church.

      A. If we want to follow Jesus, we must accept his attitudes. We must accept his attitudes as our attitudes, his ideas as our ideas, his concepts as our concepts, and his values as our values. Paul said to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Accepting the mind of Jesus Christ as our viewpoint is repentance in positive terms.

      B. If we want to follow Jesus, we must identify with his ambitions.

          1. To do the will of God in all things. What was deep within the mind of Jesus Christ that caused him to be willing to go to the cross and die for us? He came to the world to do the will of God in all things. This was his supreme objective (Luke 22:42; John 4:34).

          2. To serve the needs of others (Mark 10:45).

          3. To make known the good news of God’s love to others. For this Jesus lived, died, and arose.

      C. If we want to follow Jesus today, we must adopt his affections. What did Jesus love?

          1. He loved God supremely.

          2. He loved people sacrificially to the extent of dying for us.

      D. If we want to follow Jesus, we must imitate his actions. People will begin to see Jesus in us only after we think as he thought, love as he loved, and redirect our lives according to his purpose.

III. The gracious invitation is extended.

      A. To Philip, the spiritual leader. “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, ‘Follow me’ ” (John 1:43 NIV).

      B. To Peter, Andrew, James, and John who were professional fishermen. They heard and heeded the invitation of Jesus (Matt. 4:19).

      C. To Matthew the tax collector. “As Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Matt. 9:9).

          1. Matthew gave up a comfortable job, but he found a destiny.

          2. Matthew lost a good income but found honor.

          3. Matthew lost a comfortable security, but he found an adventure he never could have imagined.

Conclusion

“And they straightway left their nets and followed him.” Do you suppose that Jesus’ disciples ever regretted following him, accepting his attitudes, identifying with his ambitions, imitating and accepting his affections, and letting their actions become such that even their enemies took knowledge of the fact that they had been with him?

Have you ever known one man who regretted that he said yes to Christ? Have you ever known any man who wished that he could go back and go through life without Christ? Jesus satisfies the deepest hunger of the heart. Once we have received him as Lord and Savior, he will continue to lead us in personal spiritual growth and genuine worship. He will lead us to the mountainside for study and to the secret place for prayer that we might be equipped to go out into the valley of human need bearing a winning witness and bearing our cross triumphantly. And finally he will lead us into heaven to rule and reign forever.

Sunday Morning, December 27

Title: The Necessity of Forgetfulness

Text: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13).

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:7 – 14

Hymns:  “O for a Thousand Tongues,” Wesley

              “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” Anonymous

              “Higher Ground,” Oatman

Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, on this last day of the year, we thank you for the abundance of your blessings on us. We pray for more grace that we might be more worthy of your goodness toward us. We acknowledge you as the Giver of every good and perfect gift that has come to us. We bring these tithes and offerings as indications of our gratitude for present blessings and as an indication of our faith in the sufficiency of your provisions for us in the future. We thank you for the opportunity and for the ability to be givers. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction

Often we hear people complain about their inability to remember. Particularly is this the case concerning names. If we are to remember vividly, we must concentrate with our undivided attention.

We are told by those who have studied the human mind that nothing is ever completely forgotten. The things that we have done, said, heard, or seen are stored away in the computer of our unconsciousness. Sometimes without any deliberate effort on our part, something will happen that will provoke the computer to lift up into our conscious thought something that happened decades ago. We need to give careful attention to that which we feed into our minds and memories.

Memory is one of the most valuable faculties we possess. To be a victim of amnesia in which the past with all of its relationships is forgotten is a tragedy of indescribable proportions. One of the greatest sources of joy we possess is that of memory.

There are two sides to the coin we call memory. Memory can be a great blessing to us. There are many things we should remember, such as the goodness and faithfulness of God (Ps. 103:2), the kindness of others, the truths that make life worth living, the warnings of both God and humankind’s highest wisdom (Ps. 9:17), and the high resolves that have lifted our lives closer to God.

There is also an evil side to the coin we call memory. Memory can be a devil to defeat and destroy us both in the present and in the future. In view of this, the text “forgetting the things which are behind” is most appropriate. On this last Sunday of the year, there are some things that it would be wise and profitable for us to forget.

I. Some need to forget past success.

      A. People have a natural tendency to want to rest on their laurels. Consider the Pharisee (Luke 18:11 – 12).

      B. We should be grateful for past blessings and achievements, but we must beware lest we find ourselves looking backward rather than forward.

      C. Paul had many achievements for which he could have been proud. He had been a great pastor, he was a famous evangelist, he was an outstanding missionary, and he was perhaps the most influential author the world has ever known, yet he still did not count himself as having perfectly and completely achieved his destiny: “I count not myself to have apprehended.”

II. Some need to forget past failures.

      A. Not all of us have been successful.

      B. Some of us have had miserable failures.

          1. Personal life.

          2. Family life.

          3. Business life.

          4. Spiritual Service.

Peter disappointed his Lord. He was terribly disappointed in himself, yet he experienced the forgiveness of his Lord and then forgave himself of his failure. This enabled him to preach the great sermon on the day of Pentecost.

Jonah was a great disappointment to God, yet God gave him another chance, and Nineveh repented because of his preaching.

III. All of us need to forget past grievances.

      A. Do you keep a list of resentments?

      B. Do you plan to lug all of your old grudges into the new year?

      C. Do you continue to cultivate a quarrel with your relatives?

      D. Are you and your spouse carrying on a running battle?

      E. Do you have some gripe with your parents?

      F. Are you angry with God because your life is not all that you had hoped it would be?

Jesus pointed out the necessity of our refusing to harbor grudges in his words to Peter about forgiveness. “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21 – 22).

Jesus’ attention was focused on the well-being of the victim of the offenses. He was aware that hatred was like poison and would eat out the heart like acid.

If we are to face the new year with hope for success, we must forgive and forget past grievances.

IV. All of us need to forget our handicaps.

      A. Everyone has some type of handicap. If we major on our handicaps, we will never get the job done. We must refuse to look for an alibi.

      B. A handicap can be a real blessing. Even the apostle Paul speaks of his having a thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). Instead of majoring on his handicap, Paul trusted more in God and found the strength that he needed for a victorious life.

V. All of us need to forget our fears.

      A. Do you fear tomorrow?

      B. Do you fear failure?

      C. Do you fear death and eternity?

Conclusion

The way to forgetfulness is by the pathway of forgiveness. To forgive means to refuse to retaliate and at the same time to restore warm feelings. We need to forgive others. We need to forgive ourselves, and by so doing we will have made greater progress toward forgetting things that would hinder and drag us down as we try to walk into an unknown tomorrow with God.

It is better to walk in the dark with God,

Than walk alone in the light.

It is better to walk with Him by faith,

Than walk alone by sight.

Lucy A. Bennett

Sunday Evening, December 27

Title: The Peril of Being Shortsighted

Text: “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established” (Prov. 4:26).

Introduction

Most of us are afflicted with eye trouble. We are shortsighted. We refuse to look ahead and see the destination to which our pathway inevitably leads. We labor under the impression that we can choose a way of life that is detrimental yet think that we can escape the destination to which that way of life leads.

Most of us would like to arrive at a successful destiny in life. We know that to achieve this goal we must follow the path of self-discipline and self-denial of things that would distract us and prevent us from achieving that which is most important.

Most of us are like the child who prefers a quarter in preference to the promise of fifty cents tomorrow. We are like the student who chooses an easy course that requires little effort to the more profitable course that requires rigid self-discipline for mastery. Many young people make a tragic mistake in selecting a companion in marriage when they follow the romantic impulse of the moment instead of taking the long look concerning what marriage really involves.

Many of us have made the same mistake that the young couple made who yielded to the appeals of high-pressured advertising and purchased an abundance of things that were really not essential and found themselves on a financial precipice. Life would be much different if each of us would ponder the path of our feet, giving consideration to the ultimate outcome of our present-day attitudes, ambitions, and actions.

Moses prayed for Israel, “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29). The psalmist prayed, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measures of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Ps. 39:4) All of us could profitably join with the psalmist in praying, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (90:12). An awareness of the beauty of life could impress us with the preciousness of life and with the urgency of the present, for our destiny tomorrow is wrapped up in the decisions of today.

Repeatedly Haggai urged the people of his day to “consider your ways” (Hag. 1:5, 7). Are they wise? Are they profitable? Will your ways lead to the right destination?

I. Ponder the path of thy feet.

      A. It is not enough to desire the right destination. Balaam prayed, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” (Num. 23:10). While Balaam prayed this prayer, he failed to achieve his desired destiny.

      B. We can all be self-deceived. The wise man said, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Prov. 16:2 – 3). While recognizing the peril of self-deception, he advises us that the only way by which we can escape this peril is deliberately to commit our ways unto God to let him establish the thoughts by which we decide the course of our lives.

      C. The Word of God is a safe guide for our feet. “He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding” (Prov. 15:32). The Word of God will speak both words of criticism and words of commendation to those who read it reverently with a desire to do God’s will in all of their lives.

II. Ask for the old paths.

When Jeremiah served as God’s spokesman to his nation, he counseled both the nation and the individuals, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16 NIV). The prophet would speak to each of us and say, “Stop, look and listen. Take the long look.”

      A. Every road leads to a destination.

          1. The heavily traveled road may lead to the wrong destination.

          2. The novel, adventuresome road could lead to certain death.

      B. Where is the good way?

          1. All old roads are not good roads.

          2. The good road is always an old road because it has been tested and proven to lead to the right destination.

III. And walk therein.

      A. It is not sufficient just to have a thorough knowledge of the good road.

      B. It is not enough to have great admiration for the good road and for those who walk therein.

      C. It is not worthy of commendation merely to make plans to get on the good road.

      D. One must make the decision to sever all hindering connections and get on the good road with an attitude of dedication and determination to follow the road that leads to the life abundant through faith in God and faithfulness to God.

Conclusion

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is the way out of the wilderness of sin. He is the way through an uncertain tomorrow. He is the way into the family of God. He is the way up to the highest possible manhood and womanhood in this life and to the home of the heavenly Father in the life beyond. Accept Christ as your Savior, and you are on your way. Accept Christ as your Savior, and you will have the truth. Let Jesus Christ become your Savior and Lord, and you will live.

Wednesday Evening, December 30

Title: What Is Your Prayer?

Text: “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV).

Introduction

Our text declares that one day each of our Lord’s disciples will appear before his judgment seat to give an account of his stewardship. Our Lord, who has saved us by his grace, and who has given us the gift of eternal life, wishes to bestow upon us rewards for faithful Service. It is wonderful to think that our God loves us and saves us by grace and assures us of an eternal home, and that in addition he wants to reward us for the Service we render. It is sad to contemplate that there are some who could suffer the loss of rewards by their failure to achieve the potential God has planned for them. What does God’s record say concerning your achievements, Services, and ministries? The record that you have made is now history. You cannot go back and change yesterday, but you can plan to move ahead today.

I. Your record.

If you could write a record of your achievements, what would it say?

II. Achievements are never accidental.

Have you ever known a concert pianist who achieved that position accidentally? Have you ever known anyone to secure a college degree without having made plans to do so? Have you ever known anyone to accumulate a significant amount of money in a savings account without making plans and following through on those plans with regular deposits? Significant achievement, materially or spiritually, is the result of both decisions and determination to carry through to a successful conclusion.

III. What do you pray that you might accomplish?

As you contemplate reporting to the Lord concerning your ministry for him, do you have any burdens of concern for which you are praying and for which you would like this congregation to join you in prayer? Individual Christians cannot achieve all that they want to achieve without the encouragement and assistance of the other members of the body of Christ with whom they associate, worship, witness, and minister. In the remaining part of this Service and time of prayer, let each of you who will, share with the congregation the one great prayer of your heart as you contemplate your individual responsibility toward God and your responsibility to your church as a servant of God.

If you will, please stand and give voice to the concern of your heart about which you will be praying and for which you would like to request the prayers of the other members of this congregation.

Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have heard these sincere expressions of deep desire from the hearts of your people. We believe that these burdens of concern have been bestowed upon us by your Holy Spirit. We want to follow in the footsteps of our living Lord by responding to every impulse of your Holy Spirit. Help us to think with the mind of Christ. Help us to love with the heart of Christ. Help us to let our feet take us to where he would have us to go. We yield our wills to him for the rendering of ministries of mercy. Amen.

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